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Hibernians help Valletta retain the championship crown in 1945-46

The 1945-46 championship was the biggest and best organised since the competition was inaugurated in 1910.

Floriana beat Melita 4-0 in the opening match of the competition and the next day, Valletta opened their title defence with a 7-0 victory over St Joseph’s FC.

Salvinu Schembri, who had just been transferred from Sliema Wanderers, celebrated his debut for Valletta with four goals. On Saturday November

10, Sliema beat a very poor St George’s team 4-1 while Hibernians surprisingly lost 0-1 against Melita.

The important match between Floriana and Valletta was played at break-neck speed with the ball travelling from one end of the pitch to the other.

The game had hardly started when Gejtu Sacco scored for Floriana.

However, seven minutes later, Tabone fouled Salvinu Schembri in the penalty area and the latter scored from the spot.

The second half was played at the same pace but the game ended in a fair 1-1 draw.

On Saturday November 24, Sliema stumbled at their first stiff hurdle. They lost 2-0 to Hibernians but if they did not waste two penalties they might have got away with a draw.

Melita enjoyed three-quarters of the play against Valletta. They attacked throughout the whole 90 minutes, but they did not score.

Then, seconds from the end, they paid the price for their carelessness when they let in a goal which gave the points to Valletta.

The following Saturday, Floriana kept pace with Valletta with a 6-1 victory over St Joseph’s but Valletta soon jumped back to the top of the table with a 3-2 victory over St George’s.

Floriana replied with a 2-1 victory over Hibernians to keep their championship challenge wide open.

At that stage, the league was stopped for the Christmas period when the Victory Cup competition was held instead of the traditional Christmas Tourney.

The league was resumed on Sunday, January 13, 1946, when Floriana beat their old rivals St George’s 6-1.

When Sliema met Valletta on Saturday, January 19, it was the Blues’ last chance of challenging the Lilywhites and Floriana for the championship.

A victory for Valletta would have placed the champions in an unassailable position at the top of the table. It was not to be, however, because the Blues, playing on top of their form, beat Valletta 4-1.  Everyone now awaited eagerly the important game between Sliema and Floriana which would bring to an end the first round of the competition.

A crowd of over 14,000 spectators filled the Stadium on Sunday, January 27, 1946, to watch Sliema win one of the most balanced matches in the long series between the two rivals. Tony Nicholl scored the only goal of the game late in the second period. The table at the end of the first round showed Sliema leading the table by a single point.

Valletta and Sliema opened the second round with 4-0 and 6-2 victories over St George’s and St Joseph’s respectively.

The two contenders then met each other on Sunday, February 17. The game ended in a 0-0 draw which greatly favoured Sliema.

The Wanderers, however, missed a great chance of consolidating their position when, in their next game they lost 3-2 to Hibernians.

Vassallo scored Hibs’ first goal. Sliema equalised and then went in front but Alfred Whelpdale equalised. Hibs now grew in stature. They took control of the game and it was according to the run of play when Cuthbert Grech scored the winning goal.

Valletta consolidated their position at the top of the table with 2-1 and 4-1 victories over Melita and St George’s respectively.

Sliema also kept up the challenge beating St Joseph’s 7-0 and Melita 6-3 respectively. Floriana however, lost pace with the leaders after losing a precious point in the 0-0 draw against Hibernians.

A huge crowd turned up at the Stadium on Sunday, April 20 for the vital match between Sliema and Valletta.

It was a match which could settle the championship even though they still had to meet Floriana and Valletta had a stumbling block to surmount against Hibernians.

The game as expected was a whole-hearted affair full of non-stop action and excitement generated by the horns, rattles and petards provided by both sets of supporters.

Valletta set the pace in the first half and led 1-0 at half-time.

In the second half, Sliema took over and equalised. Taking everything into consideration a draw was perhaps a very fair result, one which kept both teams hoping.

Everything now depended on the last two matches of the competition.

Thrills abounded in the game between Sliema and Floriana. In the first half, the Greens were all over the Blues.Faster on the ball, the Irish were always first in the tackle and more importantly they defended like Tigers.

Leli Cauchi was the star of the match. He was a continuous menace to the Sliema defence and together with centre-forward Cassar, he made havoc on the Blues’ rearguard. Between them, they scored the two goals with which the Greens beat their rivals.

This defeat cost Sliema the championship.

Valletta now needed only a point from their match against Hibernians to make sure of the championship. Valletta made no mistake, beating Hibs 2-1 to retain the championship for the second year running.

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